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After years and years of scraping/shoveling/scrubbing chicken poop I now have a system where I don't scrape/shovel/scrub any chicken poop. After years and years of selling meat/eggs for just a hair more than I paid for the feed, I've almost eliminated feed costs. After years and years of not being able to take a few days away from the chickens, I now have a system where I can go more than a week. At any given time I thought what I was doing at that time was "the best" only later to learn of something I like better. Now, when somebody asks about my opinion on the way they raise chickens, I find myself tongue‐tied. I see their chickens standing in shit all day, eating feed made from grains (and other things) considered too awful for human consumption. The feed is often medicated and loaded with vitamins and minerals that somebody thinks is good for the average chicken ‐ it has to be because what the chicken really wants to eat is not available to the chicken. Rather than say "Ick" I want to paint a picture of something healthier that would be easy to do. What I have to say cannot squeeze into a minute. And there is so much that has to all come together just right, that without a script I doubt I can pull it off. So this is my feeble attempt at that script. To try and express my opinion on what I think is a better way to raise chickens in one big gob. To build a foundation, I need to first explore the other ways that I'm aware of to raise chickens. There are a lot of techniques out there. I've tried nearly all of them. I've visited a lot of farms and a lot of city coops. I've had a lot of people ask me what I think of their approach. And usually my answer is not the answer they were hoping for. (This feedback is easier to view on the website) Hooooooo doggy! I'm way more interesting than I thought! :) The point I want to make by sharing this is: This web page is one big steaming heap of my opinion. The whole site, really. This is my feeble attempt to paint a picture of something in my head using nothing more than the english language and a few pictures. I have tried to carefully qualify everything as observation, speculation, experimentation or pontification. Surely there are other folks with different experiences and philosophies. I encourage you to read their stuff too. Since writing this article, I have learned that the passions surrounding how one might raise chickens is coming close to the passions one might have about religion! I'm going to start off examining the base approaches, then cover a lot of the other details (breeds, predators, city limitations, improving production, lowering costs, etc.) And ... at the risk of finding mobs with torches and pitchforks beating on my front door ... I'm also going to mention what I don't like about these systems. This document is a work in progress. While I have conveyed what I think is the most important 90% that I feel compelled to share, this document is only about half done. Your feedback is appreciated.
The root of "concern"
The moment you put an animal in a cage or behind a fence, you are taking responsibility for the welfare of that animal. If you are a person of conscience, then you want to treat the animal well ‐ possibly giving it a life better than if the animal were on its own in the wild. Does this imply that every person of conscience who has caged any animal has the arrogance to believe that they can improve upon nature's designs? We can attempt to protect the animals from predators ‐ this is easy to wrap our heads around. We can attempt to provide food that is better than what they would find in the wild. But wait .... we cannot seem to agree on what is best for humans to eat, let alone another species that does not speak our language. Some simple trial and error reveals what foods are preferred or result in "progress," but a lot of this information is being contested/disputed regularly. The first domesticated chickens were plucked from the jungle. For thousands of years, chickens have been bred to survive non‐jungle situations. But when they get loose they rarely survive anywhere on their own but in the jungle. "Dammit! The chickens got out and wiped out the strawberries!" Since chickens are driven to choose what to eat based on instinct, it would seem that the strawberries may have supplied something that was not in their "chicken feed". Consider for a moment being put into a cage where your only food is moldy "purina human
All of these can be done in the city or on a farm. Or. the chickens are killed by predators. like using a coop and run. but letting your chickens free range once in a while. worse. Since we have learned that grain alone makes for a sickly chicken. Something we cannot do all year because we have winter. Or natural sunlight. o 0 = none o 10 = so much that the chicken doesn't eat any of the provided chicken feed. Most chicken feeds eliminate three out of four of these ‐ leaving only grain. And this might be a good time to point out that when I see "100% vegetarian diet!" on a carton of eggs. Mostly fresh. What's funny about the egg carton pictured is right next to "vegetarian diet" is "certified humane". And this is the norm. And just out of reach of your cage is fresh strawberries. And lots of folks come up with combinations of these. I think "our chickens suffered to satisfy the passions of ignorant twits!" I have yet to see a package of eggs with the words "diet includes bugs and other meat". The more bugs a chicken can eat. So rather than just "yes" or "no" I'm trying to find a way to express how much better one way is over another way. grains and more. I want to make up some metrics to better help me describe why I like the paddocks approach so much. Greens. the less feed I have to buy. bugs. o factory o coop and run o chicken tractor o truly free range o pastured poultry pens o pastured poultry paddocks I'm a strong advocate of the last one: paddocks. I am concerned about the way most people raise chickens Six approaches to raising chickens These are all of the methods I'm aware of for raising chickens. Bug factor: Nearly half of a chicken's natural diet is bugs. I see people build massive. "chicken feed" also contains dried legumes and a vitamin/mineral mix that contains the vitamins and minerals that we are aware of that we think chickens need. If I can get my feed bill near zero. then I have increased my profit margin by a factor of 8 or so. o 0 = no bugs are available o 10 = the chickens get their fill with plenty of bugs to spare Poop cleaning factor: How much effort is exerted in cleaning up chicken poop o 0 = fixed coop o 10 = no effort Poop hygiene factor: o 0 = every moment of every day the chicken is standing on poopy bits and breathing in amonia o 10 = the chicken is never standing on poop and the air is as fresh as it can get Work factor o 0 = about 4 hours per week for 25 birds o 10 = about 2 minutes per week for 25 birds . But. This is the strongest driving force to me. first. I am powerfully driven by the idea of my animals eating from a polyculture. The jungle comes complete with polyculture foods all year long. elaborate stuff for chickens that deprive them of fresh foods or bugs even in the summer. Vegetation factor: How much quality vegetation is available to the chicken. o negative values represent feeding toxic plants to chickens. And that grain is dried grain ‐ not fresh. fruits. For comparison.chow" (everything your human needs for growth and reproduction ‐ now with ground up minerals!) and your only drink is dirty water. Or have them standing in their own poop all day. Plus. Chicken care metrics I've tried to come up with a way to represent these ideas numerically. Later I'll go into a lot of detail of why I like paddocks so much more than the others. I've tried to use a scale such that the value 10 is best. Therefore. These numbers are entirely made up by me and are a numerical representation of my opinion.
It was how I did it when I first kept chickens as an adult. I can imagine a chicken run loaded with plenty of variety of plants edible to chickens. Although it is usually the same for folks on a farm. Probably the most common way to keep chickens. For most coop/runs I have seen. This is. The point of this image is the part that is brown. but it is presented as a reference. The so called "free range" birds are given a patch of grass. but.org for freely sharing these images. the entire run is without vegetation. the vegetation cannot do nearly as well. Although I have never seen it. they are intentionally left small. The following pics are so gross. There are some inaccuracies. So the vegetation factor would be the same for a factory farm: zero. than to shoot for perfection the first time and never have chickens. That designates an area where stuff doesn't grow anymore. Factory farm layers Factory farm layers Poop Factory farm meat chickens More Vegetation factor: 0 Bug factor: 0 Poop cleaning factor: 0 Poop hygiene factor: 0 Work factor: 2 ‐ I imagine that systems are optimized to keep the level of work low Natural habitat factor: 0 Confinement factor: 0 Food cost factor: 0 (Some cute videos showing factory farm issues. Poop and stink everywhere. You can click on ony of the pictures to get a full size pic. this isn't really what this article is about. And while I embrace this technique as something that can be "pretty good" I hope to impress upon you by the end of the article something I think is better. a huge step above and beyond what the factories do. Vegetation factor: 0 to 7 ‐ I have seen coops and runs that were too small. Coop and run is how I did it as a kid. I would like to thank farmsanctuary. No natural sun. After all. but it seems so alien to them. it's still fun to watch. I think that whenever somebody first has the thought of keeping chickens. An excellent first step. This is my rendition of a typical coop and run in the city. no doubt. But without the element of paddock shift (more on paddock shift later). the chickens will wipe out all of the bugs and then they only get those bugs that happen to come through the fence. this is what they imagine. Bug factor: 1 to 3 ‐ With a really small run. It is better to have something like everybody else the first time and learn by it. so every spec of vegetation was utterly gone. they choose to not take advantage of it ‐ they would rather hang out by the feeder. Natural habitat factor o 0 = factory farms o 10 = completely loose in a jungle Confinement factor o 0 = factory farms o 10 = truly free range Food cost factor o 0 = factory farms o 10 = the chickens do not eat purchased food Factory farm Layers packed into small cages.) Coop and run Exactly one non‐portable chicken coop and exactly one non‐portable chicken run. With a really big . meat birds in huge warehouses. I wish to express that we all have to start somewhere.
.run... Some coop designs have a mesh bottom where most of the poop falls through to a compost pile underneath. the chickens will eventually have an over impact on a lot of those growies and the quality will slowly degrade.. you will see that they have about 20 chickens and they have room to spare. The chickens would then constantly be on edible vegetation and get far more bugs. Unfortunately. Natural habitat factor: 2 to 6 ‐ Even the worst coop/run combo is a big step up from factory farms. wouldn't a loose chicken be ten times better off than being in the worst coop/run? Hence the value of "1". Poop cleaning factor: 0 to 1 ‐ You can make it a little easier on yourself if you can pile lots and lots of straw or sawdust in the coop. but I have concerns about it too). Work factor: 1 to 6 ‐ Generally you pack in feed and water twice a day. Since there is loads of chicken poop in the area and a lack of plant growth to take in the manure. Smaller runs are sometimes one big layer of chicken poop. and . you might have to shovel poop out of the run too. But . But some good trees could provide a fair amount of food. then make a new paddock like that once a week and move the chickens to the new paddock. the poop is headed for the groundwater supply. Better coops and runs are often better by being much bigger and/or getting cleaned frequently. far better than a factory farm.. They could probably easily have five paddocks like this. Food cost factor: 0 to 3 ‐ Nearly all coop/run situations provide zero to near zero vegetation food for the chickens. the worst coop/run is far. Note the pits.. The only shelter that the chicken has is a disgusting health hazard.. Easier and cheaper to build than any of the non‐portable coops I've seen.org. What an awful job. Sometimes daily.. well . It is possible to have a watering system and bigger feeder set up to cut back on the feeding chores. These folks could take their existing fencing and make a paddock about half the size of this one on fresh vegetation. And you are still going to need to clean that mesh once in a while. Maybe the lower layers will eventually compost and you'll have less muck to muck out (some folks do this compost trick with the idea that it will warm the coop in the winter ‐ it works. And if your coop has a mesh bottom. a freaky huge run loaded with excellent plants is possible. some folks scoop poop more like once a month. you might be able to just throw straw or sawdust onto the poop pile once a week ‐ but eventually that pile has to be dealt with. but I'll say it all later. . the ground is covered in poop and there are even little poop mounds under the roosts. Any grains or annuals will probably be wiped out before they can get very big. The following picture is provided with permission from happyeggs. Still . The chickens in the exact same area day after day harbors diseases. I have lots more to say about this.. Plus they would have less chance of getting sick being in the same place all the time and . The upside is that they make themselves some lovely dust baths ‐ something that chickens need. I've never seen a run that I would give a value of higher than 3. and . The fencing appears to be some pos/neg temporary electric fencing ‐ excellent for a paddock shift system! If you go to their site and look. there is no more mucking out the coop and the vegetation under and around the coop doesn't get wiped out.. Poop hygiene factor: 0 to 4 ‐ Most non‐portable coops STINK! Yuck! Ick! Damn nasty! To me. Note also ‐ no edible vegetation in the run although there is vegetation outside of the run. But there is still poop on the wire mesh and there is still that awful amonia smell coming from the pile. That's where the chickens have scratched and scratched in the same spot for months.. I think this is an excellent example of a typical chicken run that has been in use for more than a few months. Some folks scoop poop every day.. but it is theoretically possible to have a really huge run ‐ so I'm allowing a value of "6" on the high side.. some day you have to get all of that poop out of there. Confinement factor: 1 to 6 ‐ Granted.. I would think that a lot of people would switch to the paddock system for this one reason alone! If the run is too small. this seems just plain wrong. And since the micro coop is portable. I can imagine a massive chicken run loaded with 20 trees and loads of bushes and all sorts of polyculture edible growies.. but a bigger fence means more bugs will find their way in. the same thing happens. But . Often. A paddock system would have a micro coop that you can drag around from paddock to paddock.
chicken tractor or maybe a salatin‐style pastured poultry pen. The important part of this pic is to note how much greenery was consumed yesterday. is way too many chickens for such small pens. The important thing is the clear demonstration of my concern with a chicken tractor. Since chickens will instinctively eat what is good for them. Also note how the vegetation inside of the run is less diverse than the vegetation outside the run: chickens have preferences ‐ there were lots of "weeds" outside of the run. 40% of what grows on the ground is probably good for chickens to eat. Neither of which is toxic to chickens. This test plot contains only clover and rye. For the "chicken ark" style of use. Second. First. they are also smaller than anything I would call a salatin‐style "pastured poultry" pen. And then they are walking the edge . While the WSU pictures show some of my concerns about chicken tractors. You can see that there is a LOT more vegetation outside of the run. A pasture would contain 10 to 100 plant species ‐ a few of which would be toxic. I happen to know that this is not a normal pasture. Consider ‐ the more of this stuff they eat. but only grass and the serviceberry bush inside the run. they start off really great! But once all of the good stuff is gone. 30% is slightly toxic and the rest is moderately toxic to very toxic. but I think it is terrible for your chickens ‐ as I will explain below. The second pic shows where the tractor was yesterday. Salatin recommends that the birds consume about 30% of the vegetation. Proof that the chickens do eat this stuff. In the end. I did not think to take a picture of it. Chicken tractor This is generally a small. WSU has mitigated my primary concern even though you might not be able to tell in the picture. The chickens like "weeds" better than grass. These are about five feet wide and ten feet long. The reason it is called a tractor is because it is used a bit like a rototiller (I think "chicken tiller" or "chicken plow" would probably have been more accurate ‐ oh well). The fencing in this case is 6 feet tall field fence. Please don't ever use a "chicken tractor" to remove all vegetation. This may (debatably) be good for your garden. This is a test plot. That. The first pic shows where the tractor will be put tomorrow. it is lightly tilled and covered in chicken poop ‐ all ready for you to plant your crops! There are people who do not use a chicken tractor structure this way. It keeps in about 95% of the flightiest layers. Consider that in general. For this section I am going to refer strictly to the chicken tractor used to eliminate all vegetation. the chicken tractor concept is to eliminate ALL vegetation ‐ which clearly is not done in this picture. I think that such small pens should have no more than 15 to 20 birds and should be moved at least twice a day. With 35 chickens in each. then they eat the slightly toxic stuff. the less your feed bill is. The idea is that you leave this pen in one spot and the chickens will eat all of the vegetation and will scratch for bugs and stuff. While I have seen many cases of chicken tractors eliminating all vegetation from a polyculture. This looks more like 90% to me. I do have to say that in this picture. You keep three to six chickens in it. in my opinion. this can be worse than a factory farm. please refer to the salatin‐style pen section. which I discuss later. Note how the chickens are down to the dirt under the bush. Vegetation factor: ‐2 (negative two) ‐ that's right. They use their chicken tractor structure as tiny salatin‐style pen.This picture is of my first chicken run (as an adult) from a long time ago. This technique is sometimes referred to as a "chicken ark". The pictures below are from the Washington State University test fields: the person giving the tour bounced back and forth between calling these chicken tractors or salatin‐style "pastured poultry" pens. Although these are definitely bigger than anything I would call a chicken tractor. portable pen about three feet wide and six feet long with no bottom.
There is no bottom. the chickens are on fresh vegetation. you have a rich polyculture that has far more food than the chickens could eat. reshaping a pear tree. you will find that the chickens will want to hang out in the same place day after day and make a hygiene issue. you still have to clean that poop! Again. Before moving. They like you. Truly free range I have to put the word "truly" in there because factory farms use the phrase "free range" to mean something really stupid. In the city. Poop hygiene factor: 3 to 10 ‐ Even if you don't have a coop. so rather than cleaning poop. I suppose if you had some nearly ferral chickens this could happen. So after a bunch of conversations I'm opening it to the full range. They might not even show any signs of being ill. Poop hygiene factor: 1 to 2 ‐ For a while. To get a 10. but I think the average is gonna be 3. Next. The idea here is that your chickens have 24x7 access to your whole place. Usually there's a coop where the chickens go to lay eggs and to roost every night. you might have a fenced in yard and the chickens just stay in there. This was a lovely place to sit until it was perpetually covered in chicken poop. Bug factor: 1 to 2 Poop cleaning factor: 8 ‐10. But you probably do notice that the last few bits of green seem to last 20 times longer than the first bits of green. Usually right on your porch. you just move the tractor. Sometimes the pen is not moved until there is a solid mat of poop. I put the number "10" here because of the nearly ferral element. But I really think "3" is the most likely. Here they are unmulching the fruit trees. And then I had people write to me to insist that I should give a value of 10 since they have personally never seen any chicken poop with their free range chickens. Bug factor: 6 to 10 Poop cleaning factor: 0 to 10 ‐ Even if you don't have a coop.between craving greens and the only greens being poison ‐ so they slowly eat the poisonous greens ‐ slowly enough so that they don't die. you probably have no fence and the chickens just don't go too far from the food. On the farm. then you have all of the hassles that come with the coop. Work factor: 3 to 10 ‐ Even if you don't have to feed or water them. Work factor: 1 to 3 Natural habitat factor: 1 to 2 Confinement factor: 1 to 2 Food cost factor: 1 to 2 About half the feedback I get on this article is bashing me for bashing chicken tractors. If so. Again. nearly all the ground has poop. . Natural habitat factor: 6 to 10 Confinement factor: 10 Food cost factor: 4 to 10 The chickens are everywhere. there will be poop all over everything where you don't want poop! At first this was "3 to 4" and then I had some people write to me to say that they had terrible problems with poop all over all sorts of things where they didn't want poop and it was far worse than the worst coop! They implored me to discourage folks from a free range approach due to the endless poop everywhere. Vegetation factor: 2 to 10 ‐ How to get a 2 is pretty obvious. then you have all of the hassles that come with finding eggs or finding the chickens when it is time to harvest. If not. a couple of ferral‐ish chickens on lots of acres will be what scores a 10 ‐ but this isn't very common. Note that the mulch is now all gone.
The chickens eat a fair amount of the pasture and bugs and leave behind a bunch of chicken poop. *When they are spread out in the day. don't eat it ‐ you have no idea how old it is. I would find eggs on my workbench. With free range. *Because of trying this. I now have chicken scratches all over my car ‐ they attempted to roost on the bottom edges of windows. And the pens are generally not too terribly close by. Even me. Then the chickens wait for bugs to happen to pop into the pen. but a chicken is a forest animal. He puts a bunch of chickens inside and then moves the pen one pen length every twelve hours or so. A snow shovel and a scoop shovel were kept on the porch and turkey poop was shoveled off twice a day. only the window made it hard to do that ‐ so they would desperately try to keep from falling off by using their claws. *Free range chickens try to eat all of the dog food and cat food. Some folks might do just once a day. Here is my first design using the "door technique". How could there possibly ever be any poop to clean? Poop hygiene factor: 6 to 8 ‐ After six hours. This cuts his feed bill about 20% which adds up to profit! Vegetation factor: 1 to 3 ‐ lots of pasture stuff but no trees. So gross. move that pen twice a day every day. in my shop. . 90% of the bugs in the pen are probably consumed in the first 20 minutes. he describes making a pen that is about 10 feet wide and 20 feet long.They started nesting in the baler. Work factor: 0 to 3 ‐ All the feeding and watering. plus. I want to give a higher number. I once heard a fella suggest that rather than move the pens. But I think the very best pastured poultry system might cut the feed bill by 30% ‐ so the highest number I can give is a 3. there's a fair amount of fresh poop right where the chickens are standing. Until they took that special trip to the soup pot. Pastured poultry pens Joel Salatin is a brilliant man! His book Pastured Poultry is excellent. Confinement factor: 3 to 4 Food cost factor: 2 to 3 I used pastured poultry pens for several years with moderate success. it's harder to protect them from predators. on my workbench .These turkeys found some perfectly good hay and straw to poop on Here is a wonderful upside to free range chickens ‐ every once in a while. Because it is such a great system. Bug factor: 2 to 3 ‐ when the pen is freshly moved. *If you find an egg in an odd spot. the chickens all wanna run away from you so they end up and the opposite end that is dragging ‐ I constantly worry that they will get trapped under the edge that is dragging. *The weird thing is that the turkeys really wanted to spend all of their lives sitting on the porch. park an empty pen next to a full pen and then open the doors between the two: the chickens will run into the new pen to get the new grass! It works great! And eliminates the problem of when you drag the pens. a chicken can hide a clutch of eggs from us and then pops out with some chicks. Poop cleaning factor: 10 ‐ a perfect score. *Several white rock roosters turned out to think they could take anybody down. *Soils and pastures will do better when given a chance to rest between visits from the chickens. Watch out! *Free range chickens can wipe out your garden. shrubs or stuff that doesn't do well in pasture. there is no way to have that rest. In the book. *Chicken poop on my porch. They would attack and attack and attack. I used PVC pipe which made it plenty lightweight.It's just everywhere . Natural habitat factor: 2 ‐ lots of excellent sunshine.
I put the steel rods through the poly pipe. And I won't need much. If the chickens consume more than 30% of the vegetation. they can be smaller and the time spent in an area can be less. Should have an excellent lifespan. imagine . your garden without chickens produces less than your garden with chickens where the chickens eat 30%. Rather than about 10 to 15 minutes per pen (move the pen. I needed something faster. Each area gets at least 28 days of rest until the chickens return. The paddock shift system in the following image has some things that concern me ‐ but! It is a paddock shift system. Some folks report five times more vegetation when using paddock shift like the one suggested here. I welded some together and held the shape with clothesline. new water and feed) it was about 25 minute per pen (moving the modules and bungying them together). I could just lift one "end" between the two pens. it started to break a lot. Having it be very lightweight is important to me. you have too many chickens or too small of a paddock. It turns out that most PVC is not UV resistant. The following season it just crumbled ‐ it turns out the most PVC also hates temperatures of 20 below. At least. the chickens run through and then the front end of the old pen becomes the back end on the new pen. Paddock shift systems often improve the paddock. but they are kinda heavy. This is something that vegans do not consider when designing gardens with no animals. 2) Get the same effect with portable fencing. Poly pipe is really light.. Exceptionally lightweight... not stiff enough. this design is the best. The more areas you have. The lighter it is. . About at this point is when I got the idea for the chicken paddocks. When I set up a new pen. It rusted freaky fast.. And fairly stiff. the easier everything is. Cheap and easy to build.. One pen could be made of three "modules" with two ends.. This worked very well! Except that as the season went on we started to figure out that the time to move the pens was kinda huge. Joel Salatin calls this system the "egg‐mobile" and often has the chickens following cattle in a paddock shift system. The poly pipe protects the steel rods and the steel rods add rigidity to the poly pipes. but at the end of the first season. 1/4 inch steel rod is stiffer... Still too heavy. And then I got the idea of making them modular.. Paddocks Ahhhh . I didn't even finish building this prototype ‐ but I am convinced that if building a portable pen.. Put the chickens in an area and after 7 to 10 days move to the next area. There are two basic approaches: 1) Four or more fenced areas.. So . One idea was to buy one of those costco temporary garages and toss out the legs that make it high. now this is the ultimate solution. Well. I came up with an idea using cattle panels.I came up with about five design improvement ideas. I put it on 2x4 skids and drug it around. it is the best (IMO) that I'm currently aware of. I ran through a massive collection of ideas about paint (it will come off) and oil and .
Close the new paddock and take down the old paddock. But you don't have to. Instead there are four temporary paddocks and a draggable (portable) micro‐coop. Here is the same lot without the coop and run. That's where the coop has stayed in one position while the pen is moved several times in different orientations to the pen. Drag the micro‐coop to the new paddoc and the chickens will run to the fresh forage. Total time is about a minute. That slightly worn grass is as bad as it gets before I move the pen as you seen in the fresh grass on the left.... set up the new paddock and then create an opening between the two paddocks. so the area right in front of the coop gets a little "worn" which they can use as a shady dust bath area right under their ramp.. but *not* cuz they are out of good forage anywhere else. To help paint a picture . you can kind of tell the grass right around the little bowl (for kitchen tidbits) is more eaten than the grass on the left side. Each area rests from the chickens at least 28 days..” . To the right is a picture of using temporary paddocks in a city lot. you can not see the whole pen obviously its bigger. Just open a gate and drag the micro coop to the new paddock. The pen is easy to move. so I believe they are getting about 40% of their food from forage. Natural habitat factor: 6 to 10 Confinement factor: 9 to 10 Food cost factor: 4 to 10 Note that it is possible to have a 10 for every metric.. When the raspberries are on. Then move the chickens in and they'll find whatever you missed and will eat the lower fruit that comes on during their time there. brush and annual plants that provide a plethora of people food as well as chicken food. On the rare day when I am forced to leave them in for some weird reason. The lower value is for temporary paddocks ‐ they take more times to set up and take down each week. A teeny tiny dribble of a creek running through each paddock would be nice ‐ it would save you from having to bring water in. She gave me permission to pass on these words about her system: “What you can see in the pic is the dry/eaten area right in front of the coop. painted a crappy picture. I *usually* (not always) do the work of locking and letting out due to aggressive urban raccoons. I've . go into the paddock and pick all the raspberries. You see the green grass to the left side of the pic where the pen goes now. The chickens are anxious to get to the new space. She moves it every few days. you probably should look in on them every day. Each paddock is loaded with people food and chicken food.. the pen came straight out front of the coop. they eat nearly twice as much food when I refill it as when they are out. this person is using some short fence that is designed to contain dogs. In this case. Poop hygiene factor: 9 to 10 Work factor: 4 to 10 ‐ imagine moving the chickens once a week or so. Each paddock can contain trees. Oh sure. Last time. well . Vegetation factor: 2 to 10 Bug factor: 5 to 10 Poop cleaning factor: 9 to 10 ‐ Get a 10 if the micro coop has no bottom. I do it before I let them out in the morning. When the time comes to move the chickens. The chickens spend 7 to 10 days in a paddock.
I told the neighbors that I'll just build some super fence to keep the coyotes out ‐ they told me stories of people with all sorts of amazing fences and the coyotes still killed all of the chickens. These dogs would take on a mountain lion to save a chicken. you can hear them howling and yipping every night. I was told that nobody in the neighborhood was able to raise chickens because there was such a serious coyote problem. I've heard of people losing chickens to dogs. And then I met a woman advocating dogs to protect the chickens. She had a little anatolian shepherd (another livestock guardian dog breed) and a pinch of saint bernard On patrol with henry ‐ a mutt. but my gut said that these folks did not have the coyote challenge I faced and if I tried to do what they did. After hearing from two more people with similar experiences with livestock guardian dogs. And then she got a great pyrenees dog and never lost a chicken to predators after that. including chickens.The grand summary Style Factory Farm Poor Coop & Run Good Coop & Run Poor Chicken Tractor Good Chicken Tractor Poor Free Range Good Free Range Poor PP Pens Good PP Pens Poor Paddocks Good Paddocks Vegetation Bugs Poop cleaning Poop hygiene Work Natural Habitat Confinement Food cost 0 0 7 ‐2 ‐2 2 10 1 3 2 10 0 1 3 1 2 6 10 2 3 5 10 0 0 1 8 10 0 10 10 10 9 10 0 0 4 1 2 3 10 6 8 9 10 ‐2 3 6 3 1 5 10 0 3 4 10 0 2 6 1 2 6 10 2 2 6 10 0 1 6 1 2 10 10 3 4 9 10 0 0 3 1 2 4 10 2 3 4 10 Predator control When I moved onto my first farm. Well. This woman had the patience to carefully explain to me that there are certain breeds of dogs that have been bred for thousands of years to protect livestock. Research! I could find lots of people that had some wimpy fence and never had any predator trouble: "Do it like me! You won't have any problems! I promise!" I was tempted. You could hear liza battle the coyotes nearly every night. Sure enough. she wasn't a pure bred gret pyr. all of my chickens would be killed. Which struck me as not quite right because not only were coyotes rather dog‐like. But I was determined to raise chickens. Liza and henry were both very people friendly. Liza. I bought a great pyrenees pup. First you hear the howling and then about 3/4 of a second later you hear . Henry always followed liza's lead so they made an excellent team. And then the woman told me about how she had built what she was sure was a coyote proof fence only to lose every last chicken to coyotes.
dogs. So new raccoons come along a little later and you're back to square one. You have to make sure that your zapper has a powerful punch. an electric fence is a psychological barrier. when something crosses its sensor. amaranth.. Before leaving biological control behind.. Apparently. nettles and sunchokes. chickweed. eagles. The success stories make me wonder if the predator pressure may have been low. Not a bad idea! Live traps don't work so good: first. More on rats and mice here and here.) will take chickens and chicks. Raptors (hawks. With a big pop. she's right there looking to see if there might be any threat. alfalfa. There is an excellent book (Livestock Guardians: Using Dogs. Lots of shrubs and trees seems to solve nearly all of this during the day. I've heard of folks setting up the coop door with a weight or a spring so that if you just pull a small pin. the llama thinks the chickens are its family and will protect the chickens. I'm going to only skim the surface of a few of the basics. the door will open. Weasels (which includes minks) will dig a little and climb a little. dandelion. a raccoon thinks DAMMIT! . They will take eggs and chicks. freak out the predators. but I have yet to hear of a rat taking down a grown chicken. After all. There is a plethora of clover. Or maybe these folks have come across animals that just so happen to have a powerful passion to protect chickens ‐ which leaves one to wonder how to duplicate the process. 1) Motion detecting water squirt. let me just leave it at: if you have acreage. And forgetting to lock them in at night . About twelve seconds later you hear the howling replaced by "hyipe! yipe! yipe!" ‐ she's run them off. I want to mention the use of llamas. comfrey. So they can climb over a fence ‐ or they will even climb a tree to get in and climb a different tree to get out. Raccoons climb and dig and I have heard that they can break "chicken wire". You should never use electric fence for a small paddock. This will. She patrolled all night for all predators. donkeys or geese work to protect your chickens and I just don't fully understand it yet. then the raccoon tries to decide if the pain will be worth it ‐ or if it can find a way in without getting shocked. Some ravens will take chicks. All of this so folks can sleep in a bit in the morning.liza running at full speed. At night. There has also been a fair amount of discussion here. If anybody has any experience with this sort of contraption. supposedly. Donkeys. They guarantee that it will work.. why would a chicken eat dried up "chicken feed" with this bounty at hand? . Everything becomes much easier and cheaper. Although the canines are more apt to dig than raccoons. When the raccoon encounters it and you don't have a lot of pop. buckwheat. skunks and opossums. Chickens harvesting their own feed Imagine an area for the chickens which has en enormous mulberry tree dropping fruit throughout june. sunflowers. Second. I think it is possible that there are ways to have llamas. they have some sort of intermittent red light. If there is only one llama. then this topic can fill a book.. Weasels can also chew through wood a bit. But for now. And if the chickens make a certain noise during the day. and Llamas to Protect Your Herd) that goes into a lot of detail about the finer points of getting llamas and donkeys to work for you. including all the bits and bobs about breeds. Raccoons. cats (all sizes). well . please tell us about it in the critter care forum. 2) Red‐eye thing: I guess you put a bunch of these solar powered contraptions around your property. july and august. Maybe some raspberries and blueberries are in the mix too. Raccoons are mostly nocturnal ‐ and you focus your security effort on the coop. One day all will be great. it will aim water at it and squirt it. I suspect that raccoons are the number one reason why folks stop raising chickens. And then setting up a wind‐up alarm clock that will pull the pin in the morning. And sleeping in in the morning isn't particularly good for the chickens. Fruit and nut trees are surrounded by siberian pea shrubs. Maybe some day I'll expand on this topic a bit ‐ but I kinda doubt it since I travel the LGD path. that depends on how often the raccoons test the lock. Snakes can pose a similar problem ‐ going after eggs and chicks. but what they are really great at is squeezig themselves through a tiny space and then eating the heads off of all of the chickens.. Let's start simple. But now you have also added two chores a day that require you to be home on time. I'll be happy to explore more details in the forum as people have questions. foxes (canines). owls. the llamas will protect only the llamas and nothing else. A good coop solves the owl problem at night. you end up catching animals you don't want to catch.. I have a lot more to say about livestock guardian dogs. The most common approach is to close up the coop at night and open the coop again in the morning. The failure stories make sense to me. you'll find that that raccoon was keeping other raccoons away. Anything that works on a raccoon will also generally work on coyotes. So a physical barrier alone will be quite the challenge. I have heard that for llamas to be effective. etc. grains. nor have I even heard of anybody trying them. It's too stressful for the animals inside the paddock. far away. and the next morning you find all of your chickens have no heads. A couple of odd contraptions I have heard about but have never tried. Rats are a different sort of problem. RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY! Using electric fence on large portable paddocks works really well. you need to have only one llama ‐ otherwise. An electric fence can work very well.. It also covers LGDs quite thoroughly. Predator control without a livestock guardian dog (LGD) If you are not going to use an LGD. donkeys and attack geese: I've heard lots of stories of success and and equal number of stories of failure. a livestock guardian breed of dog is the way to go. I guess this won't work during the winter. peas and lentils in the more open areas. if you catch the raccoon and take it far. Assuming it is summer.
. Human nutrition is based on humans eating from a polyculture and eating the meat of animals that consumed from a polyculture. We have barely scratched the surface of what we know for human nutrition. They also tend to be more skittish around people. but I suspect it isn't too bad. When they fall. The taller stalks will eventually fall to the level chickens can get it. Chicken breeds for first timers I'm gonna go with "buff orpington". The "Braggs Mountain Buff" lays massive eggs. She lays white eggs. Kale can provide some winter greens. Buff Orpingtons are heavy (meaty. what is your soil like... I'm not sure about the feed‐to‐egg ratio. we grow things in a diverse polyculture of 50 or more species. a lot of remaining grains and seeds will still be on their stalks.. Some plants produce more food per acre per year than other plants.. I suspect that by doing this. and the biggest eggs went back into the incubator. And you harvest your non productive layers in the fall. The mycelium offers nutrients. But there is some question as to the feed‐to‐egg ratio. Rather than prending that we know all there is to know and growing things in a harshly organized fashion. Because the oak's roots cover a bigger territory. I advocate using the chicken paddock method. you tend to want to optimize the feed‐to‐egg ratio: how much does it cost for you to get an egg? Do you pay more for feed than you get for the eggs? The meat‐and‐egg‐combo breeds (like buff orpington) tend to not do as well as a lot of the egg breeds. Chicken breeds for eggs When you start to get to a scale where you need a lot of eggs. There are lots of breeds that will be fine for a first timer. a guy had a mix of a lot of different chicken breeds and he started putting the biggest eggs into the incubator. to grow depends on a lot of factors. All plant eating animals are designed to eat plants from a polyculture. but from a mix of a dozen or more species. Less waste. maybe more . And the oak ends up inadvertantly sharing some of that with the carrot. The mycelium in the soil has no leaves and depends on developing a bartering relationship with plants to get sugar. The carrot gets a bit of the oak excess and the oak gets a bit of the carrot excess. Sepp Holzer has observed chickens eating the manures of other animals in winter.. When raising chickens on a large scale. Chicks would pop out. So most of your chicken feeding efforts are focused in the warmer months when your chicken feed crops can be producing prolifically. Winter apples will often stay on the trees deep into the winter. For brown eggs. it gets far more diversity than the carrot. The sugar water from a carrot is loaded with nutrients that the carrot has in excess. The rhode island red is a heavy bird with some reputation for laying. A lot of the stuff we eat is great chicken food! And the chickens clean up anything we drop and anything we leave behind. The number one egg machine is the white leghorn. People friendly. the red star or black star are considered the best. Since paddock shift systems tend to encourage five times more growth of vegetation. More on these breeds later. His son reports that they will provide feed to chickens only on the dozen coldest days of the year. I think most folks with experience with multiple breeds would give the same advice. The egg breeds tend to be smaller and more likely to fly over a fence. After about ten years of this the guy started selling the chicks. I suggest that. have one area for both (and many other purposes too). you generally raise your meat birds only in the summer. they will keep for a long time on the ground. not from rows and rows of the same thing. About fifteen years ago . the result should be MORE people food than if chickens were not rotated through the area. If chickens follow pigs in a rotation.. Sepp Holzer pushes a perennial rye and sunchokes as the core chicken/pig feeds. This is a good time to mention polyculture. These are also referred to as "sex link" because you can easily tell them apart as chicks. And we have studied human nutrition ten thousand times more than chicken nutrition. There is concern over the egg breeds having only one good egg laying year and then they are spent. How much room do you have. pigs will often pull up sunchokes (and other tubers) and leave scraps for the chickens. how much does it rain .. They eat plants. how cold does it get. The best producers appear to be mulberry trees (lots of fruit dropped constantly over three months) and wheat (when grown with the bonfils method). What. the vegetation will become far richer in nutrients (both known and currently unknown) than if we attempt to infuse the soil with known nutrients. instead. The roosters are quite the gentlemen to the hens. For the winter. Diversity would include things that make for good chicken feed and things that make for good people feed. The sugar water from an oak tree is loaded with something completely different. And some produce food for a just a week and others produce food for six months. Euphemistically speaking. I think that the lion's share of the people food should be grown in those same paddocks. I would recommend getting some chickens dedicated to laying eggs that you keep all year and in the warmer months raise some chickens just for meat. Every plant has special nutrient needs and every plant exudes an excess of nutrients that it mysteriously has superpowers to find/build/whatever. The hens go broody easy so you have a good chance of seeing some chicks the old fashioned way. And along with that. Rather than have an area for the chickens and an area for the people food.. And the rhode island reds are generally considered not as charming as the buff orpingtons. not gonna fly out of the paddock) and a good layer. lay eggs. grow up. After you have a bit of experience. specifically.
I raised a bunch of meal worms and fed them to the chicks with the idea of feeding them meal worms once a day for the first three weeks and then. These are generally harvested at about 8 to 9 weeks and when you harvest them. too fast. But the cornish‐rock‐cross doesn't seem to want to play that way. This breed grows so fast many suffer from broken legs and many have heart attacks. Enticing them from early on with bugs. So here's the upsides: Other breeds are generally harvested at about five months (21 weeks).. they would rather just hang their head into the feeder all day.. If they want more they will get it from the forage. or 2) Go with another breed. When it rains or gets cold they want to pig‐pile on top of each other and the chickens at the bottom die. but make sure they run out of feed at least a few hours before you bring new feed. And thanks to Salatin's pastured poultry book.. half the weather problems. there is getting to be more demand for alternative breeds that not only get to the harvest size fast. More on alternative breeds here. hopefully. But . the downsides outweigh the upsides. My bad. half the predator problems. cut back on their feed. I have been able to get it down to 15% and have a lot of ideas on getting it in line with those that get less than 5%. Those are generally considered soup birds because their meat is generally tough and has a stronger flavor. If they do forage more. When it comes to an alternative breed. a lot of things. I found out that most people experience at 30% mortality rate.. So my thinking is that on the fourth week to feed them every twelve hours but just enough so that in three hours the food is gone. And observe how it goes. This breed has no real interest in eating bugs. Harvest day came. But I never got around to the part of monitoring how they did in the wild. The first thing I've done is to never keep more than 25 cornish‐rock‐cross chickens in a pen (paddock) at a time. If you have a large egg business and you don't have a meat business. but not completely and they look half plucked. (something I have not tried yet) If they are in a paddock.. in a paddock there is gobs of food if they just go and get it. there are some breeds that turn out to be almost as big almost as fast. The first time I raised cornish rock cross. that would be a good way to go. Bits and Bobs (these are more discussions that the article links to) o optimize laying o perenial feed that chickens can harvest themselves o chicken forage o fukuoka‐bonfils wheat method for chicken feed o coop insulation o raising meal worms as chicken feed o chickens in the city/burbs o chicken predators o livestock guardian animals o maggot feeding station for poultry o black soldier fly larvae for poultry . and you don't mind a tougher bird. half of . There are people that raise cornish‐rock‐cross and get a mortality rate under 5%. As they approached their harvest date I told myself I would never raise these again. These birds grow so fast that there is a period of time at about six weeks of age when their feathers are in. I was not prepared for . how different it is to raise them. then meat breeds are the best path. They are just too freaky. I prefer the idea of leaving them a week's worth of food while they are in a paddock and they can eat all they want ‐ but they prefer the forage. Half the time of having to care for them ‐ that right there makes for half the hassle. And did I mention the flavor? Based on the first harvest. I really don't like the idea of depriving a chicken of food since a chicken naturally eats every two hours. Some people insist that you feed cornish‐rock‐cross twice a day. While a cornish‐rock‐cross will reach "five pounds live weight" (the standard) in six to eight weeks. By harvest time I had a 30% mortality rate! I was sure I was somehow inadvertantly torturing these birds! After doing a lot of checking around. in my opinion. Chicken breeds for meat Most folks raise cornish rock cross. This keeps them from getting too heavy. It was the tastiest chicken of my life. sure. For those that are looking for more meat. then. When they are chicks they are active and they LOVE bugs! But when they get older they just want to hang their head in the feeder and not chase bugs. This might be a good time to address an obvious solution for a lot of folks: why not just harvest layers that are not laying anymore or layers that turn out to be roosters? The answer is that you DO harvest those also.. And the way they die at the drop of a hat is just too depressing. 1) Go with the cornish‐rock‐cross and try to mitigate the downsides. And we ate one. The feed to meat ratio is excellent. but they are better foragers and less prone to heart attacks. some of the alternatives claim nine weeks and some others claim nine to twelve weeks. I have two approaches to explore. they would forage for their own bugs! Every time I brought them bugs they went wild for them. I might cut it back to once a day. they are bigger.
So much so that the cost of feed could drop to zero. Imagine a breed where you feed $10 worth of feed and get $120 worth of eggs! I know that I would be willing to pay $10 per chick for that! And getting $10 per chick is a lot better than getting 25 cents per egg. If somebody wants to do it before me. go for it! The mission is to get a breed of chicken that will far prefer forage over standard chicken feed. red star. Currently. make sure your champion hens get a chance to do the same for three years. Try to make sure the paddocks are as equal as you can get. buff orpington. And the secondary idea is to have a business of selling chicks for $5 to $10 per chick. Find out which hens are the champion performers for three years. get lots and lots of chicken breeds (leghorn. you can pay $1 per chick for a chicken you need to feed $100 worth of feed to get about $120 worth of eggs. Set up ten micro‐paddocks that are loaded with good forage. First. Other desirable aptitudes include: o will stay within a portable electric net fence o easily broody o people friendly o three years of good laying o good winter forager The idea is to come up with a layer breed for the permaculture homesteader: Very easy and cheap. My crazy idea to come up with a better egg laying breed I hope to do this someday. the best two of each round is your breeding stock. braggs mountain buff . rhode island red.. anything that might have genetics that would work well with this) and let them mix plenty and have lots of chicks. numbered clip that goes on the leg of the chicken). Band the third generation and beyond (a band is a little plastic. After the first year. Each hen should get one round in the warm season and one round in the cool season. Copyright © 1986‐2009 paul wheaton . Make sure that you do not compare the april hens to the may hens ‐ that would not be a fair comparison. Then give the paddocks four weeks of rest.. But make sure that the winning hens from that first year get a chance for three years ‐ more on that later. Every five weeks put one hen in each micro‐paddock. Keep a log for each banded chick. black star. I plan on writing lots more here. If this line is still here in september 2009 and you want to see more. It would be best to compare a three year old champion hen to another three year old champion hen. For longer term results. drop me a line to remind me. Carefully weigh the feed consumed and the weight of the eggs produced for one week.
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